Brain Drain in Africa

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Brain Drain. Noun. Means the departure of educated or professional people from one country, economic sector, or field for another for better pay or living conditions. Africa has a long record of exploitation from other cultures throughout its history. From slavery, to colonialism to neocolonialism. But there was another side effect from the exploitation that still plagues these countries today. Brain drain.

Brain drain in the countries of Africa threatens scholarship and development processes, but also bolsters the economic differences between the country of origin and those destination countries receiving the highly skilled or educated migrants (doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, etc.

). These people leave due to poor working and living conditions, civil unrest, poor wages, and an uncertain future for them and their children. To create a highly skilled or educated person takes a lot of resources, care, money, nurture, and highly skilled individuals. When people leave their countries of origin, the investments made in educating and training them is lost. Therefore, further damaging society and the economy.

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This loss is plunging the continent into a state of perpetual instability and imbalance, while also creating a negative effect on the tertiary institutions and organizations that these professionals leave, because they are not easy to replace.

The money and knowledge lost could be used to invest in businesses, construction, healthcare, and purchasing goods and services that would result in the strengthening of the economy by creating jobs. Emigrating is causing a gradual erosion of the middle and upper-middle class. Resulting in creation of a social void that is not politically, economically, and culturally healthy.

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An integral part of society is creating and maintaining a solid middle class. By achieving this, it allows for democracy. But without a middle class, society is divided into the very rich and the very poor. This void creates the very corrupt kleptocracies that we know today.

There are three current theories being discussed in the research community. The first is the Neo-Classical Migration theory. This theory was developed to explain internal migration movements. This considers migration as a result of wage differentials between origin and destination countries. According to the theory, international migration occurs as a result of the desire of migrants from low wage or labor surplus countries to move to high wage or labor scarce countries. Being heavily based on labor markets, if wage differences were eliminated, then so would labor migration.

The second theory is the World Systems theory. This is centered around the world’s capitalist economy. It considers migration to be a product of the penetration of multinational corporations into less developed countries. As wealthy multinational corporations are established in poorer countries, they create mobile populations by creating labor displacement. This theory also suggests that emigration from Africa to the West is driven by cultural and ideological connections created during the colonial era in Africa. This directly relates to dependency theory.

The last theory, dependency theory, considers the world to be divided into three sectors. The third world countries, the developing countries, and the first world countries. The World Systems theory and Dependency theory both reference the Center Periphery Model. For the first world countries to remain in their place, they must rely on the continuous exploitation of third world and developing countries. This usually results in the importing of resources from the third world and developing countries to the first world countries. The first world countries then process these resources and produce goods in which they export to the third world and developing countries. This theory also relates to the Neo-Classical theory.

There is no perfect theory to explain the Brain Drain of Africa. The perfect theory derives from all three of these. This theory would be centered around the world’s capitalist economy and the Center Periphery Model. As multinational corporations penetrate less developed countries, these corporations create labor displacement (World Systems theory). These multinational corporations export resources to their countries of origin and process these resources. They then ship the goods created from those resources back to the third world and developing countries (Dependency theory). The labor displacement created by multinational corporations results in the international migration of highly skilled or educated migrants from low wage or labor surplus countries to migrate to high wage or labor scarce countries (Neo-Classical theory).

Not only are all three of those directly responsible for the current state of severity of Africa’s Brain Drain, but slavery and Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) from the World Bank and IMF (International Monetary Fund) are equally responsible. When the Structural Adjustment Programs were first introduced to Africa, they promised to lure investors by jumpstarting the economies by injecting money and austerity measures into them. The World Bank and IMF neglected to notify them that they must privatize education and their health system as well as not support any tertiary education. Outside investment does not come and this plunges the countries into further debt. This leads to individuals leaving their countries of origins for better qualities of life and wages.

Slavery resulted in over ten million Africans being taken to the New world. Millions of African tradesmen, farmers, homemakers, artisans, and intellectuals were forcefully uprooted from Africa, brought to America, and sold as slaves. Culturally, slavery (and colonialism) disrupted ways of life, outlooks of the world, languages, religions, and indigenous values. By imposing Western beliefs, this cut the African people off from their natural attachment of the educated elite to their indigenous languages, values, and knowledge. As well as disrupted their commitment to their communities. This would be the only case in which Brain Drain was not related to wage differentials or living and working conditions in Africa’s history.

How do we solve this? African governments, institutions, and organizations must introduce short term infrastructural social development projects aimed at reducing the rate at which highly skilled or educated Africans are emigrating. Economically, they must develop large scale economies. They must be geared towards addressing the needs of local people, not shadowing Western models or following Structural Adjustment Programs and austerity measures. Culturally, they must instill a sense of pride in both common African history and the history of African countries. This should be instilled in the early years of students and children. A prime example of this would be Thomas Sankara’s indoctrination of young children into believing the idea of self-sufficiency.

Africa has been exploited for centuries and is raw much like its resources. The land and her people. Africa is rich in culture, knowledge, geography, and potential. We must give Africa time to develop and let it experience the growing pains of becoming independent. But she cannot succeed without highly skilled or educated people giving back to the countries that invested in them. The future of Africa is in her people. Not the ground. And it starts with reducing Brain Drain.

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Brain Drain in Africa. (2021, Dec 07). Retrieved from

Brain Drain in Africa

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